Hope and humor’s salute to summer

It’s a beautiful day in Corn Borer, Indiana, so a great day to just laze in the hammock and recycle some old columns on:

Vacations are not a vacation if . . .
Traveling the world on one tank of gas
Top ten clues a man should wear a shirt in summer

And, of course . . .
Laziness is a virtue.

Top ten clues a man should wear a shirt in summer

August 2000

I have in my right hand, direct from the home office in hot and humid Corn Borer, Indiana, today’s category:

10. Take a tape measure. Drop it on the floor. If you can’t pick it up without bending your knees, put on a shirt.

9. If you have a tattoo containing any of the Federal Communication Commission’s seven dirty words, put on a shirt.

8. If you don’t want to appear as a suspect on TV’s “COPS,” put on a shirt.

7. If you have more chest hair than your neighbor’s poodle, put on a shirt.

6. If you’re over 40, put on a shirt.

5. If you’ve had open-heart surgery, put on a shirt.

4. If your mother, wife or daughter (and especially all three together) can’t reach around you for
a hug, put on a shirt.

3. If you don’t want to die of melanoma, put on a shirt.

2. If your measurements exceed 36A, put on a shirt.

1. If your family or neighbors have cut out this column for you, put on a shirt.

© Copyright 2000 James N. Watkins

It’s not a ‘vacation’ if . . .

May 2000

(ST. MAARTEN, The Caribbean) What a vacation! No pat-downs at airport security. No flight cancellations. No lost luggage. No beggars posing at bellhops. No phone calls. Plus, a comfortable bed and free 24-hour room service. Just eat, sleep, and read. Ahhh.

Vacations are taking a break from the normal routine.

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve spoken at conferences in three countries across a dozen time zones, and have slept in at least two dozen beds. So “normal” has become sitting in airport furniture only a chiropractor could love, eating airline food (which I’m actually acquiring a taste for), and living out of a suitcase in a hotel.

It’s also meant meeting fascinating people outside my cultural cubical: A high caste Hindu who converted to Christianity by simply reading the Bible in college. A Muslim who works undercover for a government anti-terrorism squad. A man and wife who live in a motorhome as they travel to 40-plus cities a year conducting writer’ conferences. And many, many more.

And it does sound glamorous to be in the Caribbean eating filet mignon at an open-air restaurant on the beach or looking out my hotel room balcony on what looks like a Carnival Cruise commercial (without Kathy Lee, fortunately). But these recent moments of travel poster paradise were wedged in between two long days of travel and two full days of radio interviews and lectures. And that doesn’t quite qualify as a vacation in my DayTimer.

It’s also not a vacation if . . .

a) you have to travel beyond one potty stop. (If you have a pre-schooler, you’re lucky to get out of the driveway.)

b) haul more than each child’s body weight in luggage and life support.

c) hear “Are we there yet?” more than once.

d) pay more than $10 for a Diet Coke and a hamburger (Mickey and Minnie are extortionists!)

e) sit through a timeshare resort sales pitch

f) visit relatives, and most of all

g) camp. (The reason people get jobs and clock in 250-plus days a year working is so they don’t have to live outside and scrounge for firewood. This is called “homelessness,” people, not vacationing.)

I’m not even sure there is a biblical basis for vacations. Sure, God, took the seventh day off to rest in northern Indiana (At least that’s where I assume He spent His time, since He did nothing very creative in the area.) An entire generation of Israelites died as they wandered for 40 years trying to find the off ramp to Caanan. In fact, large numbers of people died on road trips from the Babylonian captivity to Jesus’ escape to Egypt.

So, what was my best vacation ever?

While my wife and kids were driving through holiday traffic in Chicago on their way to visit relatives, I was home in my sweats with the curtains closed, and the lights and the answering machine turned off, recovering from a major book project.

I could watch the “Lehrer News Hour” without hearing “We want to watch the Simpsons.” I didn’t have to compete for the stereo, or time on the computer or commode. I could eat pizza for breakfast, get up at 3 a.m. to check email without waking anyone, and take a holiday from hygiene without anyone’s permission. (Of course, my going a week without shaving or showering is no one else’s idea of a vacation!)

Like I said, no flight cancellations, no lost luggage, no airline food, and no Uncle Harold asking, “When are you going to get a real job?”

So, whatever your definition of “vacation” is, I trust you’ll be able to enjoy a break from “normal” this summer. Me? As soon as I get home, I’m going to go take a nap in my own bed. Ahhh!

Reporting from St. Maarten in the Caribbean, I’m Jim Watkins.

© Copyright 2000 James N. Watkins

Laziness is a virtue!

July 1997

Ah, those “lazy, hazy days of summer.” Time to laze in the hammock and ponder the importance of . . . well, lazing in the hammock.

Laziness, you see, is a vital virtue! Think about it over a tall glass of lemonade. Where would we be today without this important quality? “Necessity” is not the “mother of invention”! (Maybe a sister or a second-cousin, but not the mother.) Laziness is the mother of invention!

For instance, we’d all be living like the hard-working Amish, who live without electricity and indoor plumbing, if not for this much-maligned virtue.

Grog was too lazy to drag a mastodon back to the cave, so he invented the wheel and, subsequently, the Monster Truck.

The inventor of the flush toilet, Alexander Cummings, was simply too lazy to empty “thunder mugs” or use the outhouse in sub-zero temperatures. (Legend credits Thomas Crapper—a much more appropriate name—with the invention, but he was simply a manufacturer of water closets that bore his name.)

Alexander Graham Bell was too lazy to walk into the next room when he needed his lab assistant Watson, so he invented “voice mail.”

And Henry Ford, the inventor of the “horseless carriage,” was too lazy to shovel out the barn (“There must be a better way to reduce carriage emissions!”).

Every great invention, from the “doodad” to the “thingamabob,” has been the result of laziness. (That’s why the industrious Amish have never been known as great inventors and innovators. Industry stifles invention.)

Laziness, then, should be applauded as a virtue! So, let’s get in that hammock and put laziness to work!

© 1997 James N. Watkins

Travel the world on one tank of gas

Nothing is more fun than planning a family vacation—unless, of course, it’s lost luggage, airline food, or eight hours of “Are we there yet?”

So, as a public service, let me suggest the Rand McNally travel agency. Here’s what our team of investigative humor columnists discovered by searching through the index of its famous Road Atlas.

You can take your family to Atlanta, Brazil, Carthage, Denver, Dublin, Frankfort, Geneva, Jamestown, Lebanon, Long Beach, Maryland, Memphis, Mexico, Miami, Montezuma, Mt. Vernon, Norway, Oxford, Peru, St. Paul, Warsaw, Washington, or Waterloo without ever leaving the state of Indiana.

Just lineup the kids in front of the “Now Entering” sign, take the picture as soon as Junior stops making faces, and impress your family and friends with a world-wide slide show!

And by only traveling across the border into Kentucky, you can visit Anchorage, Capital Hill, Manhattan, and London. In Illinois you’ll find Athens, Batavia, Bunker Hill, Cairo, Charleston, Cuba, El Paso, Frankfort, Geneva, Havana, Kansas, Oregon, Paris, Phoenix, Rome, Wyoming, and Zion.

Even closer to home, you’ll find Athens, Atlanta, Beverly Hills, Frankfort, Holland, and yet another Norway in Michigan. Meanwhile, in the Buckeye State, visit Amsterdam, another Athens, Berlin, Damascus, Delaware, Frankfort, Jamestown, Lebanon, London, Macedonia, Poland, Reno, Rio Grande, Troy, Warsaw, Williamsburg, and Wyoming.

And if you can’t afford to fly to Hawaii for a honeymoon, you can find in Love in Virginia. You’ll find your Valentine in Arizona and Nebraska; Loveland in Colorado, Ohio, and Washington; and Honeymoon in Arizona.

We’re planning a trip to the Holy Land, but it looks like we could save a bundle—and not be endangered by religious terrorists—by simply touring the United States. There are Bethlehem’s in Connecticut, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania; Canaan in New Hampshire; Eden in Georgia, Illinois, New York, and Texas, Egypt in Kentucky; Palestine in Illinois; and even Sodom in New York.

All of this exhaustive investigating caused me to ponder, who comes up with these city names?!

Among the Ordinary (Kentucky), Plain City (Ohio) and Soso (Missouri) town names, you can find lots of exceptions. Who would have thought of naming cities Colon and Flushing—both in Michigan. Or Santa Claus, Indiana? You can also find Paradise in Montana and Hell in Michigan. (However I’d suggest avoiding Double Trouble, New Jersey; Gnawbone, Indiana; Eek, Alaska; Hazard, Kentucky; and Slaughter, Louisiana.)

Some city planners merely borrow other state’s names such as Atlanta in Idaho and Texas; California, Nebraska; Denver, New York; Lansing, Iowa and Indiana; plus the ever-popular Marion in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana (there are actually two Marions in the Hoosier state), Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. (No wonder postal workers are stressed out!)

And nothin’ says lovin’ like naming a town after your favorite girl such as Elsie, Judy, Mary, and Susie—all in Kentucky.

Animals apparently play an important role in communities. How ’bout traveling to Alligator, Mississippi; Cowshead, Newfoundland; Jackrabbit, Arizona; or Raccoon, Indiana?

The beaver, though, appears to be the most popular creature with city planners. You can find a Beaver in Oklahoma, Oregon (there are actually two towns called Beaver in the state), Pennsylvania, and Utah; Beaver City, Nebraska; Beaver Creek, Ohio; Beaver Crossing, Alberta; Beaver Dam, New Jersey; Beaver Lodge, Alberta; Beaverton, Ontario; and Big Beaver, Pennsylvania.

So, whether you’re planning to visit Cairo Egypt or Cairo, Illinois, I trust you have an enjoyable time. We’re thinking about visiting Watkins, Colorado; Watkins Glen, New York; or Watkinsville, Georgia.

Copyright © 1999 James N. Watkins

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